Wrestling Their Way to the Top

Meet Ushoshi Das and Emili Lok, two stars of the wrestling team!

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Cover Image
By Geoffrey Huang

Name: Emili Lok

Grade: Junior

Height: 5’1”

Hair Color: Black

Eye Color: Dark Brown

Date of Birth: 03/25/2007

Name: Ushoshi Das

Grade: Junior

Height: 5’ 3”

Hair Color: Black

Eye Color: Dark Brown

Date of Birth: 07/13/2007

1. How did you get into wrestling? 

EL: I’ve done kung fu my entire life, so I already had an interest in combative sports. Compared to other sports I’ve done, the feeling you get from just brawling someone is in a whole different league. Yes it hurts a lot, but also I feel like I’m more alive. So, by sophomore year, wrestling seemed to make the most sense to me. Also my friend Chloe Kim would always wear a really swag looking wrestling jacket which incentivized me because a) I wanted to see if Chloe could beat me, and b) I also wanted a cool jacket with my name on it. I found out Chloe doesn’t even wrestle, but it was too late, and I’m still here.

UD: People had always encouraged me to wrestle because I’ve done judo since second grade, but I was always put off by the sport (my only exposure to wrestling was WWE, which I found repulsive). I wanted to compete solely in judo. But because of the pandemic, I entered Stuyvesant on a break from judo. Early into my freshman year, I began noticing posters advertising the wrestling team all around Stuyvesant. I spontaneously showed up to the team’s interest meeting. While I wasn’t at all convinced that I would enjoy the sport, I liked the people I met. After attending a few preseason practices, I fell in love with wrestling. 

2. What is your favorite thing about wrestling?

EL: Maybe this is cruel, but feeling someone try and fail to wiggle out of a pin is such an ego boost. Besides the actual wrestling part, though, I feel like screaming from the edge of the mat has to be my favorite thing. With wrestling, half of the battle is mindset, so when you hear people yelling advice from the side or screaming “you’re not tired,” it can be the boost that changes the outcome of a match. I love screaming at my friends from the sidelines, and I remember after my first tournament, I couldn’t speak for the next day because of how much I strained my throat.

UD: I love being a part of a team. Even though wrestling is very much an individual sport, we practice three hours a day after school and spend entire weekends at tournaments together. The team is like a really chaotic family, and I’ve made some of my closest friends on the mat.

3. What is your least favorite thing about wrestling?

EL: The worst part about wrestling is if after their first move I can tell their level of skill is a different caliber. Every match I have to wrestle hard, and that’s what matters, but it’s painful when I realize that I’m simply less tough than them. Sometimes wrestling hard still means I’m getting immediately pinned. I train hard, but some matches are a wakeup call that I still could have trained harder. It hurts to hear Coach Murray tell me that the opponent was just a lot stronger than me. Even though wrestling is a team sport, at the end of the day, I’m the only one who can win my match. I’m supposed to wrestle like I’m going to win every time, and it’s difficult to swallow down a loss and still wrestle like a “winner.”

UD: I get injured easily, which is really frustrating. Right before our first meet this season, I got a concussion during my finals match at the New York State Judo Championships, and thus was out for the majority of the wrestling competition season. Also, I ended up wrestling at both Manhattan Borough and City Championships this year with a sprained ankle. It was kind of funny because I had several layers of tape on my ankle (to restrict most of its movement) so that I could compete. I placed pretty high in these tournaments—I placed second in New York State because my concussion meant I could not continue competing—but I know I could have performed even better had I not been injured. But, I suppose, wrestling is a contact sport, and injuries are inevitable.

4. What is your fondest memory of wrestling at Stuy?

EL: My fondest moment was one of our practices this year right before the City Championships. No one in that tiny warm room really wanted to practice since it was one of those tired days, and for a lot of us, the season was already over. This meant that after the mats were set up, everyone was doing anything but running. One wrestler, Hwarin Zoh, had the speaker and was playing Glorb before people started requesting K-pop songs. I can’t remember what was the catalyst, but after “Likey” by Twice, it went from a few of the guys on the team trying to follow a dance, to everyone in the room crowding around and dancing to “Gangnam Style”. Then to make matters even more unserious, Coach Parris started choosing dances that she wanted to see us attempt. Even when Coach Murray rolled in wearing his suit, the dancing didn’t stop, and he said something like “Well, at least everyone is warmed up.” To be perfectly honest that was probably the most cardio I did all season and people all around were sweating like dogs.

UD: Mine is my match in the playoffs freshman year. I had won matches before, but this was the first time I won against a guy clearly so much stronger than me. This win gave me so much confidence; I remember jumping into my coach’s arms immediately after, and the entire team jumping around me and hyping me up. In my next two competitions I felt especially supported by my team, and I placed as the 2022 third best “boy” in Manhattan, and ranked third amongst all girls in my weight class in NYC.

5. How does it feel to be a co-ed wrestler?

EL: I feel that being a co-ed wrestler means that I’ll always be worrying about whether I’m able to retain respect. It’s not the fault of the people around me that I feel like respect for me is so wavering, but it’s my own brain that gets me worked up over this. Every time I lose a match to a guy, I wonder if I could have done better as a guy. Every time I wrestle well against a guy, I wonder if they were just being wary not to accidentally touch something. Everytime I wrestle a girl I think, “Did everyone watching think I won because my opponent was bad, not because I was good?” or “The guys have harder matches, so this one doesn’t really count for as much.” Even in practice, if I get too tired during conditioning, I’m too scared to stop because I’ve been told, “Yeah, I respect you because you’re one of the girls who actually keeps up.” It was a compliment, but what will change if I can’t keep up? My voice is high pitched and feminine, so whenever I take charge I wonder if people listen because they pity me. What helps is that I’ve worked hard to prove that I’m not just another name on the roster. I started my career rough, breaking my arm during my very first match, but since then I’ve become a starter for our team, I’ve won first, second, and third at various tournaments in the city, and I led a team practice all on my own. The last might have been the most rewarding because none of the captains were there that day, and someone had to step up, and it was me. The way Coach Murray complimented my ability to step up sticks with me, and reminds me that I’m really a part of the team.

UD: I’m really grateful that I have always been accepted on the Stuyvesant team. But unfortunately, I have experienced plenty of sexism while competing. My first year wrestling—actually at my playoffs match—one of the coaches from the opposing team refused to shake my hand after I won against his male wrestler. He shook every other Stuyvesant wrestler’s hands (the rest of the starting lineup was all boys). I’ve also seen coaches yell at their wrestlers for losing to me. Because of this, I constantly felt that I needed to prove myself to everyone. I felt that people took every one of my losses to a boy as an indictment against my gender—though of course, that would be ridiculous. I’ve learned that it’s not always about winning the match, but rather trying to wrestle well. Sometimes I can’t help but feel this pressure. 

I’m really excited that girls’ wrestling has become the fastest growing high school sport in the past few years. I can already see that this is forcing some changes in the rule system that make the sport much more inclusive. Still, the majority of rules are written for male bodies, which really harms the performance potential for women competing in the sport. (For example: it’s harder for female bodies to manipulate their weight, and as a result, I usually wrestle several pounds up, which often means that my opponents are much stronger than me.)

6. What are your plans for wrestling in the future?

EL: Now that it’s hit me that I only have one season left of wrestling, I’m actually terrified that without the opportunities given to me by the PSAL, I won’t have too many opportunities to wrestle in competitions. Still, I am hopeful, and I’m committed to keeping wrestling an integral part of my life. I’m a kung fu girl through and through, so I hope to keep lessons from wrestling, but besides that, if I can make it, I would love to keep wrestling in college. Additionally, I would love to try refereeing a match or being a wrestling coach one day for a middle school or high school team. I don’t know if I’ll make it to the “big leagues” in this sport, but I’m going to keep trying to get to the top.

UD: Right now, I’m training for judo competitions, but I plan to go to wrestling clinics throughout the rest of the school year. I also wrestle during the summer at the summer PSAL practices, which are a great opportunity to wrestle with students from around the city and learn from coaches with a variety of wrestling styles. And of course, I hope to help more girls try wrestling.

7. How have you used your experience in combat sports?

EL: Luckily I’ve never had to whip out a takedown on the street before, but my experience with combat sports has helped me feel safe in situations where I might have not felt as secure. With that, I didn’t want to keep the secret of how-to-feel-slightly-safer-on-the-street to myself so I came up with the idea for a women’s self defense club. I began it with Ushoshi since she has a similar background. With our club, we teach girls (and really whoever else wants to learn) how to protect themselves. What I love about this is that while we teach things like “run away as soon as you safely can,” we’ve also incorporated aspects of kung fu boxing, judo, and wrestling into our lessons. Even if our club is for teaching self defense, it also acts as a girl-orientated space for people who are interested in martial arts but have nowhere else to fulfill that niche. Outside of that, I’ve also led as a student-teacher for an external women’s self defense seminar at the Chinese Kung-Fu, Wu-Su Association which was a lot of fun too. While I do enjoy the thrill of my sports, at the end of the day it’s all about finding the real world applications and then bringing those unique life skills to life.

UD: Like Emili said, we started the Women’s Self Defense Club to introduce more Stuyvesant students to fundamental self-defense techniques. Emili and I both have experience teaching martial arts: Emili teaches Kung-Fu, and I teach judo to three to17-year-olds. But instead of teaching combat sports or how to be aggressive, we are teaching skills anyone can use to quickly disengage from a dangerous situation. It’s really exciting to see how many people are interested in our club. While we know there are no guarantees of safety, at least we can help our peers be mentally prepared in unsafe environments.

Fun Questions:


Funniest Teammate: Hwarin Zoh or Timothy Duren

Best Mid-Tourney Snack: Clementines and Lindt’s Lindors dark chocolates

Pump-up Song: “Picture to Burn” by Taylor Swift

Favorite wrestling move: Anything off of a Russian Tie


Funniest Teammate: Timothy Duren

Best Mid-Tourney Snack: Clementines and chocolate covered pretzels

Pump-up Song: “Party in the U.S.A.” by Miley Cyrus

Favorite wrestling move: A roll into a pin